What is soooooo important about the simple act of breathing? Being conscious of your breath. The potential power of the breath shows up in our everyday expressions and inspires an impressive array of exclamations from "That was absolutely breathtaking!" or "I need a breath of fresh air!" to "Give me room to breathe!" And let's not forget the one that's been used in countless love songs and poems, "You take my breath away." Right now as you are reading your body is automatically breathing you! Yet are you aware there is an intimate relationship with your breath and patterns of tension? Tension held in your stomach, unconscious short breaths, and poor habits restrict the benefits to your mind and body. A common habit is to breathe in reverse, sucking in the abdomen on inhalation and expanding it on exhalation. Place your hand on the belly and discover what you do.

Just what is fully relaxed belly breathing? How can we consciously harness its life-giving power for radiant health and well-being? Well, there's nothing like direct experience so let's take a journey for a moment …… gently closing your eyes, breathe slowly and deeply …… relax your entire mind and body, breathe easily, noticing the rise and fall of your belly …… relax all the way back to childhood, like the pages in the book of your life flipping in reverse from the present …… vivid memories, exuberance and boundless energy, you as a child now floods your awareness.  See yourself running, dancing, or jump roping in your back yard, playing games on the beach, without a care in the world. Maybe you're singing, shouting, calling out to your friends in the excitement of expressing your youth. That's it! Children naturally breathe with relaxed open bellies. When babies breathe every part of their bodies move. Relaxed and enlivened simultaneously.

With responsibilities and adulthood comes the increasingly fast pace of modern life, habits of tension, and worry. Amazingly, we overlook an intrinsic simple resource beginning with the first breath at birth and sustaining us throughout our entire lives. Self-care takes a little time, but not as much as we think. So often it gets put aside for when there's enough time.  Isn't it marvelous, knowing just a few minutes of conscious deep breathing and focused attention can quickly calm emotions, and shift scattered, stressful thinking. Deep breathing clears stale air from our lungs, re-oxygenates the blood and boosts our thymus gland. This activates the immune system and raises our level of health and life energy. 

Here's How, Consciously

Think of diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing like a glass being filled with water.  The bottom fills first. Place your hand on your belly so you can feel the rise and fall as you breathe. Slowly inhale all the way down into your belly, allowing the abdomen to expand like a balloon. Next the ribs expand and fill. The upper chest rises filling last. The chest and diaphragm relax as you slowly exhale and the abdomen flattens.

Here are 3 simple quick ways to use full breathing for self-care in our daily lives.

1.Breathe! Emotional Stress Release or ESR
Close your eyes, take a deep breath and lightly hold your forehead or frontal eminences, 3 finger widths above eyes, pulling up slightly. Focus on an event or problem. Be aware of the feelings and details involved. Review all aspects of the problem silently or aloud. Continue to hold your forehead, breathe and relax, until the stress disappears or clears. You may find yourself yawning, sighing, or taking a spontaneous deep breath. Now imagine the positive side, feel into the sensations that arise. What would you like to have happen! Breathe life into your new vision by activating all your senses. See it, Feel it, Hear it, Smell it, Touch it, Know it. Make it real!

Did you know? Studies have proven that as an activity is vividly imagined the body's internal system reacts in exactly the same way it would if the activity were actually being performed. Neurons fire in the same pattern, and small contractions occur in the muscles involved in the imagined activity. Creative Visualization works!

2.Sigh, Exhale! Let it go! Take a mini- vacation.
Take 3 long, deep breaths and say, "relax now". Imagine a wave of relaxation like a gentle waterfall or a warm blanket of soothing energy starting at the crown of your head and flowing down over your entire body, all the way down to your toes. And now transport yourself to your favorite place in nature; walking on the beach, warm sand squishing up between your toes …hearing the power of the ocean waves rolling into shore, smelling that refreshing salty air;  lying in a soft grassy meadow sprinkled with brightly colored wild flowers, noticing a flight of birds overhead… thrilling you with their quick swoops up and down;  sitting in a tranquil garden, feeling at ease, the smells of jasmine and rose …a hummingbird darts from blossom to blossom, so close you could almost touch her. Feel  refreshed …clear-minded …lighter …profoundly connected to all that is.

3.Sing! Fully enjoy the moment of breath!
Breathe! Think of a verse or chorus from a song you absolutely love. And sing it, hum it ….. letting your voice ring out. Use your full throat and lungs to fill the air with this glorious affirmation of your child-self. Feel your mind, heart, and body come alive! Breathe, be joyous and sing!

Deep full breathing is like fresh air to our mind, body, and spirit. We can renew that relationship anytime… anywhere. So next time you rub your forehead, or feel that tightness in your shoulder, call a timeout! Better yet! Take a breather! BREATHEEE - you'll be glad you did!
May you live joyfully and with ease! For further inquiries, please feel free to contact me.
I look forward to hearing from you!
Laurel Ricci  CCHT CHT

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"He lives most life whoever breathes most air."
~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning
~ Article written for WholeEssence online magazine, March 2009, althealthconnect.com